Tate Talk™: Annotating Artwork

More often than not, when you (as an avid music fan) are introduced to a new song or album, your first impression is not sonic — it’s visual. Cover art for albums and singles has always been a huge part of the music experience. Since Genius allows us to decode and interpret these works of art, it would be best if everyone was on the same page.

This forum post is meant to show users how to manage all the artwork for an album and how to create high-level artwork annotations.


1. How to add artwork to an album.

You may see some of these old [Tracklist + Album Art] pages floating around, but they’re considered obsolete now and you should never create one. You can add all relevant information to an album page instead.

So, what should be included in each album page?

Album pages house all artwork for an album—whether it’s alternate covers, booklet images, back covers, etc. The metadata guide could give you more insight on this topic

Artwork should be added in the following order:

  1. Digital cover
  2. Physical cover(s) (if different than the digital cover)
  3. Alternate covers
  4. Early covers that weren’t used
  5. Artwork included in booklet/released with the album
  6. Liner notes (if included in the booklet)
  7. Single artwork, ordered by release date
  8. Back cover

Note that it’s important to ONLY use officially released artwork. Fan art is cool but belongs in the comment section instead.

2. Writing Superb Artwork Annotations.

Artwork annotations follow the basic rules of annotating lyrics, however, there are a few differences. Here are the 10 Artwork Annotation Commandments (based on the lyric annotation commandments).

  1. Don’t Restate The Artwork: It’s always good to give a little overview of what the picture shows, especially if it’s a complex and abstract illustration. Nevertheless, simply describing is never enough, give us some context. What has the artist or designer said about the cover? What does the cover mean? What does it represent?
  2. Write Like A Human
  3. Watch Grammar & Spelling
  4. Do Research & Hyperlink Sources
  5. Master Formatting
  6. Include Media That Adds Depth: If there are images of the artist working on the artwork, early renders of the cover or images of the photoshoot used for creating the album image, make sure to include them!
  7. Be Objective
  8. Be Concise & Specific
  9. Be Evergreen
  10. Be Complete: While some artwork is highly complex and deserves to be analyzed, make sure to address what the art embodies as a whole. Diving into the minutiae is one of the greatest things about annotating art, but remember to not let the overall picture become an oversight

Besides the 10 Artwork Annotation Commandments, as stated in the Annotating Artwork Guide there are some details that one might want to include in an artwork annotation:

  • Specify the Artists Involved In the Design: Always give credit when possible. Specify who designed or photographed the image and describe what how their style shows on the cover.
  • Chronicle the Creative Process: Showcase what inspired the artist and what lead them to create that specific cover.
  • Outline Possible References: Artists are often inspired by other works of art. It’s helpful to point out where inspiration can be detected and similarities arise.
  • Detail the Color Pallet Used: Sometimes the colors chosen for the cover hide a deeper meaning and try to provoke a specific feeling in the viewer.
  • Mark Out Any News Surrounding the Cover: Maybe the artwork was teased all over a city, or allegations regarding its explicit content sprouted somewhere, tell us about it.
  • Highlight Similarities & Differences Between Covers: If there’s an alternate cover for an album, a deluxe version cover or special edition art, describe how it differs from the original.

An example of a good artwork tate is the one on A Head Full Of Dreams by Coldplay. This annotation holds all of the criteria of what makes a great artwork annotation and dives deeper into every detail of the image. Besides explaining the artwork as a whole, it shows the artist’s inspiration and the process of developing the cover. It also discusses the meaning of the symbols, the story of how the artwork was revealed and important musical news that surrounds it.

3. Test Your Artwork Annotation Knowledge.

Do you want to learn more about artwork annotations and test your skills and knowledge on them?

Take The Artwork Annotation Quiz!


How to deal with existing [Tracklist + Album Art] pages.

First off, as stated before, one should never create a [Tracklist + Album Art] page, as those are no longer used on site.

If you come across one which has nothing annotated, you can ask an editor, moderator or community staff member to help you delete it. If it has some annotations on it, you can always message the user and tell them to transfer their tates to the proper place and then continue with deleting the page.


P.S. Special thanks to @ARPessoa for helping with this thread.

CC: @genius-editorial-board @genius-moderation

October 29th, 2018

Another beautiful training tool from the venerable @FGV… Bravo, good sir!

And s/o @ARPessoa too ;)

October 29th, 2018

Great tate talk! (also HUGE s/o for bringing it back). Must admit that artwork annotations never took off like I expected they would after we got the new album pages.

I’d like to add one thing to the last point, Highlight Similarities & Differences Between Covers: Great insight can also stem from similarities/differences between album and single art or the covers of multiple albums in an artist’s career.

Why is it important to credit the artists involved in the cover’s creation, isn’t that already present in the metadata?

October 29th, 2018

@Dyazz Great addition to the last point! will add it to the description on the Artwork Guide!

As of the artists involved, though it’s true that it should be stated in the metadata, it is a good practice to mention them on the tate and if possible link to their work.

Something like this is a good way to incorporate the artist’s name and start the artwork tate:

The cover art for Album_Name was designed by Designer and it shows a…

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

October 29th, 2018

This one was needed for quite a while, I’m gonna constantly be refering my mentees to this page as long as I’m on site. Great work @FGV!

October 29th, 2018

Thanks a lot for this one! Will help me out for sure. I’m a total album/single artwork nerd! :)

October 29th, 2018

Oh, @FGV! You make me blush! I’m so so thankful you pulled me in on this project. It turned out so well!! Be sure to share your best artwork annotations with both FGV and I—we’d love to see them!!

October 29th, 2018
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